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On March 23, 2016, many of the organizations and people who own, publish, and edit Public Health Reports (PHR) met in Arlington, Virginia, to talk about the journal. It was not unusual for us to talk among ourselves—we do that often in various combinations—but this was the first time in many years that we had met together face-to-face. Attendees at the long-planned meeting included the Surgeon General and his office (the owner of PHR), the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) (the publisher of PHR and the host of the meeting), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (the home organization of the editor in chief and the acting managing editor), the members of the PHR editorial committee, and a contributing editor, Professor Sara Rosenbaum, from The George Washington University (photo).
In his remarks and conversation with the group, Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy spoke about his support for the journal's modernization plan, which will soon bring the newest publishing and communication technologies to PHR. Dr. Murthy emphasized the need to adapt the journal to meet the evolving needs of its readers and public health, while also honoring its 138-year history. He stressed the value of cross-sector partnerships to engage frontline public health workers with the journal in new ways.
The coming modernization of the journal dominated the day's discussions, but other topics also attracted discussion. We discussed the special circumstances (e.g., human resources, procurement, management, and budget) of journals that are owned or published by the federal government. Readers might be interested to know that the federal government publishes only five peer-reviewed biomedical journals, including PHR. CDC publishes two of them, Emerging Infectious Diseases and Preventing Chronic Disease (CDC also publishes the non-peer-reviewed Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report). The National Institutes of Health publishes Environmental Health Perspectives, and the Department of Veterans Affairs publishes the Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development.
Other prominent topics of discussion included (1) the journal's role in connecting the work of schools and programs of public health to practice in the field (a longstanding priority of PHR); (2) improving the journal's impact and immediacy; (3) publishing more content on emerging topics in public health, including review articles; (4) streamlining the journal's operations; (5) producing the journal's special supplemental issues; (6) the role of CDC in staffing the journal's editor-in-chief position; (7) new collaborations with public health organizations; and (8) the importance of bringing to more readers the ideas and activities of the Offices of the Surgeon General and the Assistant Secretary for Health. In the coming months, readers will begin to see the fruits of these discussions in the pages of the journal.
As always, this issue of PHR runs the gamut of public health topics. In Dr. Murthy's article in this issue's Surgeon General's Perspectives, he writes about one of the most compelling problems in American public health, the nation's epidemic of opioid drug misuse and overdose deaths. Another article in the issue speaks to this same topic by describing the impact of benzodiazepine use on mortality among substance abusers in a Canadian city. Other topics in the issue include the educational pipeline for the public health workforce, vaccination against human papillomavirus, barriers to treatment for hepatitis C virus infection, county health factors associated with avoidable deaths, active surveillance for invasive pneumococcal disease, radiograph reports for pneumonia surveillance, social media misinformation during the recent Ebola epidemic, self-reporting of cancer diagnoses after disasters, clinical research in Vietnam, and smartphone dependency in Korea. Two law-related articles cover norovirus-related regulations in the U.S. states and quarantine in the context of Ebola. Bundled with this issue of PHR is a supplemental issue with 16 reports demonstrating the effectiveness of various strategies for implementing hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus testing, as recommended by CDC.